Home Owner Do-It-Yourself attempt at an ice dam prevention sytsem.
The street looked familiar as I pulled onto. Sure enough, I had already estimated an ice dam prevention system on this street. In fact, it was right across the street from the house I was going to. What was that on the roof edge? Did they install snow slides (sheet metal strips designed to let the snow and ice slide off the roof - they do not work well)? I would have to take a closer look when I was done with meeting with this prospective customer.
What you can hopefully see in the picture is some metal panels with the hardware store variety of heat cables that are typically run in a zig zag fashion. But here they are sandwiched in the metal panels at the eave and in the valley. Initially, I thought this was a great handy man version of what we do. Using metal to conduct the heat produced by the heat cables is the foundation of a well designed ice dam prevention system.
But on closer reflection, I recalled some recent projects we had removed the hardware store heat cables from after they had failed prematurely. One project had the cables routed in such a fashion that they were sandwiched between a gutter and a gutter guard. The cable outer jacket was so brittle after a year of use that they just fell apart. I could only attribute that to the inability of these thin round heat cables to regulate their own heat output. These are what is known as constant wattage heat cables. They differ from the self regulating style of heat cable in that they cannot adjust to their own temperature and develop hot spots. These hot spots lead to premature failure of the zig zag heat tape. Time will only tell if this installation will cause the same hot spots in these thin big box store heat cables.
Also of concern is the outlet strip on the roof where these cables are plugged into. Don't know if the outside outlet is ground fault protected. There are an awful lot of extension cords strewn about (this system is repeated in other places on the house).
This home is near a family member of mine so I will stop by periodically throughout the winter to see if this set up is effective. I will keep you posted. If you don't want to experiment and would like an estimate on a well designed and well tested system, contact us and we will be happy to meet with you.